Europe’s citizens will elect their new EU Parliament from 23rd to 26th May 2019. This means that the decision will be made during these four days who will shape politics in Brussels during the next five years. As one of the three key EU institutions, the EU Parliament has significant influence on the decisions of the European Union. According to surveys, this might result in significant shifts of majorities.
Many elections are referred to as an “indicative vote” and there are also arguments why this label is also appropriate for the EU Elections 2019: many Member States indicate substantial gains for those parties, who are extremely critical of the European Union. As initial prognoses show, forming majorities in Parliament could become significantly more difficult:
Hot spot 1: France
After Germany (96 seats), France - with 74 MEPs - has the highest number of members in the European Parliament. In 2014 EU Elections, the Front National was already the strongest force with 25 % or 24 seats. According to current prognoses, the party, which now calls itself Rassemblement National, might lose some votes. However, at ca. 22 %, it continues to lie level with President Emmanuel Macron’s movement La République En Marche, which enters for the first time and which wants to join forces with the Liberals after the election. Significant losses are forecast for Les Républicains, which belongs to the group of the European Peoples’ Party (from 20 % to ca. 14 %), as well as for the Parti Socialiste (from 14 % to 5 %).
Hot spot 2: Italy
Of the 73 MEPs, who Italy elected in 2014, 31 members (41 % of votes) belonged to Partito Democratico (fraction of Social Democrats). At 17 seats or 21 %, the protest move of Movimento 5 Stelle was voted to the second place. Until now, the right-wing Eurosceptics of Lega had 5 seats. According to current surveys, one has to expect a complete reversal of majorities: according to forecasts, Lega can expect to win the elections, ending up with 31 % or 25 seats under Matteo Salvini. Movimento 5 Stelle may expect small gains. The forecast is that Partito Democratico will be reduced to 22 % or 18 seats. Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi and EU Parliamentary President Antonio Tajani, which belongs to the European Peoples’ Party, might almost be halved from currently 13 to 7 seats.
Hot spot 3: Great Britain
In spite of Brexit, Great Britain will be taking part in the EU Elections 2019 and has - like Italy - 73 seats, until she has finally left the EU. According to surveys, the newly founded Brexit Party could become the strongest force with 30 % or 22 seats. Whilst the drop for Labour with 22 % or 16 seats (from currently 25 % or 20 seats) might be limited, there is an indication the Conservative Party might suffer significant losses - the forecast shows 12 % or 8 seats (currently 23 % or 19 seats). Significant gains are forecast for the EU-friendly Liberals and Greens.
And in Austria?
Due to the fact that Great Britain will participate in the EU Elections after all, Austria will for now continue to send 18 MEPs to Strasbourg or Brussels. Once Great Britain has left the EU, Austria is eligible to send an additional MEP. According to a current survey, at 30 %, the ÖVP can expect an additional mandate (from five to six). Even if the SPÖ achieves 27 %, the number of 5 mandates would remain unchanged. At 23 %, the FPÖ could have the same number of MEPs as the SPÖ. The forecast is that the Greens would lose two MEPs - from three to one -, whereas the NEOS are expected to maintain their mandate.
Small Member States stronger represented in the European Parliament
Even if Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain are represented by the highest number of MEPs in the European Parliament, smaller Member States are stronger represented in proportion. For example, Germany’s population is almost 10 times as big as Austria’s, but its number of MEPs is “only” five times higher.
The graphic shows that the five largest Member States send one MEP for more than 800,000 citizens. This figure is less than 100,000 in the smallest Member States. With almost 500,000 citizens per MEP, Austria lies in the middle.
Who will be the new Commission President?
In 2014, the result of the EU Elections had been linked to the decision who would be the next Commission President. And even if Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans have been nominated as the leading candidates for the European Peoples’ Party and the Social Democrats respectively, it is by no means certain whether the candidate of the strongest fraction will be recommended for the highest office of the Commission. In any case, the heads of state of government have called an informal Council for May 28th 2019, to discuss - two days after the elections - the most important personalia at EU level.
Everything is possible
Of course, these are only surveys and prognoses a week prior to the elections. Especially for this reason it is true that every vote counts, in particular as in many countries the participation in EU Elections is significantly lower than in national elections. Only one thing is certain: the fight for a fair and social Europe that puts people at the centre needs as many MEPs as possible who pursue the same goal. To achieve this, Europa needs every single vote!